Author Archive

Social networks may one day diagnose disease–but at a cost

05
Jul

by Sam Volchenboum The world is becoming one big clinical trial. Humanity is generating streams of data from different sources every second. And this information, continuously flowing from social media, mobile GPS and wifi locations, search history, drugstore rewards cards, wearable devices, and much more, can provide insights into a person’s health and well-being. It’s now entirely conceivable that Facebook or Google—two of the biggest data platforms and predictive engines of our behavior—could tell someone they might have cancer before they even suspect it. Someone complaining about night sweats and weight loss on social media might not know these can be signs of lymphoma, or that their morning joint stiffness and propensity to sunburn could herald lupus. But it’s entirely feasible that bots trolling social network posts could pick up on these clues. Sharing these insights and predictions could save lives and improve health, but there are good reasons why data platforms aren’t doing this today. The question is, then, do the risks outweigh the benefits? Read the full article here.

Emotion shapes the diffusion of moralized content in social networks

05
Jul

by William J. Brady, Julian A. Willis, John T. Tost, Joshua A. Tucker, and Jay J. Van Bavel Political debate concerning moralized issues is increasingly common in online social networks. However, moral psychology has yet to incorporate the study of social networks to investigate processes by which some moral ideas spread more rapidly or broadly than others. Here, we show that the expression of moral emotion is key for the spread of moral and political ideas in online social networks, a process we call “moral contagion.” Using a large sample of social media communications about three polarizing moral/political issues, we observed that the presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word. Furthermore, we found that moral contagion was bounded by group membership; moral-emotional language increased diffusion more strongly within liberal and conservative networks, and less between them. Our results highlight the importance of emotion in the social transmission of moral ideas and also demonstrate the utility of social network methods for studying morality. These findings offer insights into how people are exposed to moral and political ideas through social networks, thus expanding models of social influence and group polarization as people become increasingly ...